Now this is a big question and although it depends on your company or organization, the following is a list of some must-haves when it comes to creating your social media crisis plan:
The definitions of both a social media crisis and a social media issue
These are two different types of online issues that can have a negative impact on your brand. The former can develop into the latter and both can result in negative repercussions for your brand for the long-term. It’s very important that your employees and crisis response teams understand the difference between the two and what each of them mean to your company or organization.
Online and social media crisis and issues policies
This should include the definition of each, their attributes, red flags, consequences of not responding, as well as escalation policies.
Social media crisis and issues procedures
This should include a step-by-step process for responding to the different types of online crises and issues which have been identified within your risk assessment, performed prior to the creation of this document. The simpler this section the better, though it needs to be as thorough and self-explanitory as necessary.
Crisis team members
Whether you have one social media crisis team or several (typically this includes local, regional and/or global crisis teams) each member of each team needs to be listed within this section, including all possible ways of reaching each individual, day or night. This section should also include the roles and responsibilities of each crisis team member.
Communication is the backbone of social media crisis management. In today’s world of online crises, the public expects to hear from you immediately and in regular intervals throughout the crisis. Within this section it’s important to include different holding statements for the different potential crises, as well as the different stages within each crisis. The more your team has to help them, the better.
Checklists, forms and charts
Again, the more your crisis team has to guide and help them manage the crisis, the better. For this purpose, no social media crisis plan is complete without different checklists, forms, triage charts and others.
Crisis documenting and reporting procedures
Once the crisis has been resolved and is classified as being “over”, the final stage is to document and analyze the series of events that took place throughout the crisis in order to:
- Learn, improve and strengthen your crisis plan
- Train new and existing members of your crisis team and other staff members
Social media policy
Many companies and organizations like to include their social media policy within their social media crisis plan. At the very least, your brand’s social media policy should be referred to and linked to from within your crisis plan.
There are many terms within your social media crisis plan that may not be completely understood by each member of your team. Does every member of your staff and crisis team understand the true meaning of “viral”, “home base” or “red flag”? Odds are that probably not. For this reason, it’s very important to include a thorough glossary at the end of your social media crisis plan. This simple section will help alleviate questions and misinterpretations in the complex time of a social media crisis.
Now don’t get overwhelmed but I’m not denying that your social media crisis plan is a lot of work if you’re going to do it right. Like your traditional crisis plan, it’s a big deal and is invaluable when it comes to managing and overcoming an online crisis in the least amount of time and with the least amount of repercussions to your brand.
What’s your next step?
If you want to develop your social media crisis plan in-house, then the Social Media Crisis Management Toolkit is an excellent tool to help you get started. If you’re seeking a professional and experienced crisis management specialist to help you through each stage of your crisis planning, than I invite you to learn more about Agnes + Day and the services and expertise our crisis intelligence team will provide you with.
Author of Crisis Ready: Building an Invincible Brand in an Uncertain World, Melissa Agnes is a leading authority on crisis preparedness, reputation management, and brand protection. Agnes is a coveted keynote speaker, commentator, and advisor to some of today’s leading organizations faced with the greatest risks. Learn more about Melissa and her work here.